By Darla Martin Tucker
As the COVID-19 pandemic shifted into high gear this spring and again in the summer, healthcare institutions around the country struggled to keep protective gear stocked. A group of La Sierra college students decided to help meet some of the need around them.
Members of the La Sierra University Enactus team realized they had an opportunity to contribute clear plastic face shields to frontline healthcare and other workers, a vital component of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed to defend against infection from COVID-19.
The La Sierra team, based in the Zapara School of Business, is part of an international student-driven nonprofit that uses entrepreneurship and social innovation toward meeting needs and improving the world. Led by Enactus 3D Printing Solutions Projects leader Christian Lott, a senior accounting and political economy major, the team utilized Makerforged 3D printers in the business school’s Innovation Lab along with Markforged face shield designs to produce 217 clear plastic face shields during the spring and summer.
Of those, 162 shields were delivered to medical staff at Redlands Community Hospital, 30 went to the Loma Linda University Research Affairs Office, and 25 shields were delivered to La Sierra University. All the shields produced so far have been donated, with the team absorbing production costs.
“PPE was at times very hard to come by, and the addition of these shields was very appreciated,” said Carolyn Arnold, Maternal Child Director at Redlands Community Hospital. The shields were provided to physicians, nurses, and technicians in the Labor and Delivery Unit. “The Materials Management Team at Redlands Community Hospital did an amazing job acquiring supplies and PPE, but there were times when they were struggling to find the numbers of supplies needed. The donated shields helped take some pressure off that team and has provided protection for our staff and medical providers,” Arnold said.
Lott, who helped deliver the shields, said it felt like a task he was called to do. “I hope it made things a little less stressful,” he said.
The team made flyers and sought contributions to help cover materials costs, but they did not ask the receiving institutions to pay for the shields. The team pays $11.58 per mask for foam, elastic bands, and plastic, which were chosen based on recommendations from Markforged. “The masks aren’t FDA approved like a lot of PPE that’s being used right now, but they can be used under the Emergency Use Authorization,” Lott said.
The 3D printers are able to produce eight shields a day and, while not set up to manufacture thousands of face shields, the team is making a difference where it can. Presently the team is taking orders on a case-by-case basis.
The La Sierra University Enactus team’s current projects include Freight to Table, a hydroponic vegetable-growing venture, and the e-Library, which provides digital learning without the need for internet infrastructure.
For a special opportunity this month to support the La Sierra University Enactus team’s hydroponic freight farming project, please visit lasierra.edu/givingday.